28 February, 2018
Head teachers in England have called for a fairer framework addressing the pay levels of all school staff to prevent "fat cat" pay gaps. This follows the revelation earlier this month that the Chief Executive of the Harris Foundation, Sir Dan Moynihan, had become the first in the state sector to earn £500,000 per annum. The Trust's annual accounts also show that 10 of its staff are paid over £150,000.
In response, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) has requested more transparency over how "public money" is spent, and the Department of Education has written to 29 trusts regarding high pay. The trusts were told there had been "considerable scrutiny over tax-payer funded executive salaries" and such high pay had to be justified.
The academy trusts asked to explain their levels of pay where senior managers earn over £150,000 by the Department of Education have so far only been small, single-school trusts. However, the much bigger multi-academy trusts, including Harris, will now also be challenged over how much they pay their senior management. Prior investigations have shown more than 120 academy trusts are paying an employee more than £150,000. It is suspected that these will be multi-academy trusts in the majority of cases.
The Harris Foundation operates 44 schools teaching 32,000 pupils, with all schools rated as either good or outstanding by Ofstead. A spokesperson for the Trust said that the high earnings of the Chief Executive reflected the high performance of the Trust.
Despite there being fewer than 1% of Head Teachers and senior executives earning £150,000 a year Paul Whiteman, leader of the NAHT, suggested there be a national framework for salaries within the state school system with clear guidelines on what pay was appropriate. "This would protect lower-paid workers, and avoid gaps opening up between the lowest and highest paid people in any school, which are hard to justify in the public sector."
Lord Agnew said that pay for academy bosses should not increase faster than the pay award for teachers, and that "we should see a reduction in CEO pay where the educational performance of the schools in the trust declines over several years." Schools would be expected to deliver the best value for money and if performance is declining, pay for senior management should also be cut.
Executive salaries are a pressing issue for schools at the current time given considerable austerity budget cuts in the public sector. Of the responses received so far, the Education and Skills Funding Agency said that about two-thirds would require further investigation. Despite the absence of any regulatory framework at the current time, it is hoped that the correspondence from the Department of Education and the risk of investigation has brought the issue to the forefront of the minds of school leadership, and into the public consciousness which in turn will add pressure on to schools to address the issue.
Jonathan Holden, Head of the Education Group at Forbes, advises that "Given the current interest in salary scale by the Department of Education, schools with high earning executives would be well placed to consider internally rationalising such salaries against performance."
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